In honor of the third candle of Chanukkah
Nowadays, Chanukkah is a kid’s holiday, a counter-Christmas to be more precise but really, it’s all about adult choices and adult messiness.
Generations of American Jews have regarded the Maccabees as a kind of anti-assimilation device, heroic warriors fighting for religious freedom and, of course, Judaism. Rising against the reprehensible Antioch, they defeated their adversaries and wrestled control from the crazy assimilated Jews who had collaborated with the Seleucids. Once they had succeeded, they purified the Temple, “re-instituted” Judaism, circumcised the uncircumcised etc. and somehow got around to establishing the holiday of Chanukkah as well, bringing us sufganiyot (donuts), dreidels and gambling. They were the forerunners of the Warsaw ghetto fighters, and the reason we are still around.
In fact, of course, things were far more complicated and it would be difficult to argue that any of the involved parties could have avoided Greek influence altogether. The heroic struggle then emerges as nothing less but a war that effected a significant change in politics, empowering a formerly oppressed minority that would prove no match for the Roman empire in the long run.
The questions raised by the Maccabees–who’s a Jew and how do we ensure Jewish continuity? and what does that even mean?–are still with us today, and the answersare just as messy. It seems that we have more choices today, and more freedom, or so I’d like to think.
I wonder whether the arsonists who set fire to the main mosque of Yasuf see themselves as modern-day Maccabees doing their bit to “reclaim” Palestine.
Today, it is the turn of Adam Sandler’s classic Chanukkah song and a German version of the same:
Adam Sandler’s Chanukkah song:
And from Berlinfuckingcity (!):